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A Late Season Run

BY ANDRES FOCIL
A Late Season Run

A Late Season Run

After a disappointing series against Alabama, the Arkansas baseball team has its hands full when they welcome South Carolina to town for a three-game series beginning on Friday night at 6:35 p.m. The Razorbacks are playing for their SEC Tournament lives as they sit 1/2 game out of the top eight while the Gamecocks are jockeying for position in the tournament.

Arkansas (28-20, 10-13 SEC) has won three straight series against ranked opponents (#25 Florida, #30 Tennessee, #21 Ole Miss) with two of those coming on the road giving the Hogs a boost of confidence as they get ready to face South Carolina (33-15, 13-11 SEC). The Gamecocks have been hot and cold in SEC play this season with a pair of series wins always following with a series loss. South Carolina is coming off a series win at Florida.

The Razorbacks hit the ball well in their weekend series with Alabama as Casey Coon began to really heat things up. Coon had seven hits in the series and batted .583 to lead the Hogs while Chase Leavitt hit .444 and Tim Smalling .417. Logan Forsythe was the RBI machine with five of Arkansas’ 17 runs batted in.

On the mound, Arkansas’ starting pitching needs to be better than it was a week ago if the Razorbacks are to take two of three from the Gamecocks. Even though Arkansas’ starters didn’t perform to their usual standards a week ago, Arkansas saw the emergence of sophomore Mike Bolsinger who threw 7.1 innings in the series over two games and accumulated a 3.68 ERA. He allowed just four hits and picked up the Sunday afternoon victory. Bolsinger could factor heavily on the weekend’s series either as a reliever or starter depending on the situation.

The Alabama series can be heard on the Razorback Baseball Radio Network with Chuck Barrett handling the play-by-play duties on Friday night. The audio can also be heard over the internet inside the RazorZone at Hogwired.com. Live stats are also available on Hogwired.com.

Leading Off …

Casey Coon led the Razorbacks in the Alabama series going 7-12 (.583) with two doubles, two runs scored and one RBI. Coon increased his season batting average 20 points in the series which now stands at .301, its highest of the year. Since returning to the lineup following his ankle injury, Coon has hit safely in seven of 10 games with six multi-hit games and has increased his batting average nearly 60 points.

Along with Coon’s performance at the plate, Chase Leavitt (.444) and Tim Smalling (.417) also batted over .400 against Alabama. Leavitt had four hits in nine at bats, starting two of the three games while Smalling had five hits in 12 at bats with two doubles. Leavitt also scored three runs and drove in two.

The Alabama series was very much about the haves and the have nots at the plate for the Razorbacks. Five Hogs hit over .370 in the series while six hit under .170 and five under .100.

Logan Forsythe was nearly unstoppable in the Ole Miss series going 7-11 (.636) with a double, three home runs and a sacrifice fly. He scored five runs and drive in eight over the three games. His home run total for the weekend tripled his season output and his RBI nearly doubled.

Forsythe’s smashing weekend earned him SEC Hitter of the Week honors.

Since he broke out in the Ole Miss series, Forsythe has 15 RBI over his last seven games. Forsythe has at least one RBI in each of those contests after going the previous seven without any and only driving in nine in the first 35 games of the season.

Tim Smalling’s Ole Miss series was nearly as good as Forsythe’s as the utility infielder had five hits in 15 at-bats including four home runs. Three of the blasts came in game two of the series (Arkansas’ first win) and he drove in six of the Razorbacks 13 runs in the game.

Over the past two weeks, Smalling is 10-32 (.312) with six runs scored, nine RBI, two doubles and four home runs.

Cliff Springston pitched Arkansas’ first nine-inning complete game of the year in the Ole Miss finale allowing four runs on 11 hits. The Hogs dropped 12 runs on the Rebels giving Springston run support he hasn’t had in some time.

Chase Leavitt has hit safely in 13 of his past 14 games and over that stretch has 20 hits and a .465 batting average. Hitting at the top of the order, Leavitt leads the Razorbacks with a .506 on-base percentage and scored 47 runs.

Ben Tschepikow has Arkansas’ longest current hitting streak at nine games and over that time has hit .395 with 15 hits in 38 at bats. Tschepikow has driven in nine runs and scored 11 even hitting his first home run of the season.

Arkansas’ starting pitching continued to look solid in the Ole Miss Series. Springston threw his first complete game late Saturday and overall the three Razorback starters ate up 21.1 of 28 innings played, gave up 18 runs and struck out 19.

Stephen Richards was a workhorse out of the bullpen in the Tennessee series, throwing 5.1 innings over two days. He picked up the win in Friday’s game by throwing 2.2 innings of relief for Dallas Keuchel and was saddled with the loss in the 10th inning on Sunday afternoon.

Richards picked up a career best six strikeouts in his 2.2 innings of work against Tennessee on Friday night and even worked out of a tough jam in the final inning.

The combination of Travis Hill and Evan Cox combined for Arkansas’ first shut out of the season on Tuesday, March 25, against Centenary. The tandem threw nine innings of two-hit baseball and became the first pair to throw a two-hitter since the 2006 season.

Arkansas head coach Dave Van Horn was named to the College Baseball Foundation’s National All-Star Lineup on March 25 for coaching the Razorbacks to his 800th win as a head coach.

Arkansas came back from a nine-run deficit at LSU exactly one week from giving up a nine-run lead. In the game, Arkansas allowed nine runs in the first three innings, but persevered to score 14 of its own to out-slug LSU 14-13 in 10 innings. Sophomore Tim Smalling ended the game on a solo home run in the 10th inning.

Justin Wells was the key to Arkansas’ come-from-behind win at LSU as he pitched 7.1 innings of relief. Struggling at first, Wells allowed five runs in his first two innings of work but settled in after the fifth inning and conceded just two base runners giving the Razorbacks a chance to score six unanswered runs and win the game.

Aaron Murphree was on a home run tear never seen at the University of Arkansas. The senior from Brock, Texas, hit 12 home runs in the first 14 games of the season, including 10 in the final eight of that stretch. He has three multiple home run games after blasting three vs. Siena.

Murphree was named the Collegiate Baseball National Hitter of the Week on Monday, March 10 as well as the SEC Player of the Week and the Pro-Line Athletic National Hitter of the Week.

Arkansas’ 12 runs in the seventh inning vs. Siena on Saturday, March 8, tied the school record set in the sixth inning vs. Oral Roberts on April 20, 1993.

Logan Forsythe and Casey Coon are on the Brooks Wallace Award watch list, which goes to the top player in college baseball.

Shaun Seibert, who injured his right elbow against Kansas last season returned to the mound for the Hogs on Saturday, Feb. 23. The junior right-hander underwent Tommy John surgery on March 22, 2007, and returned to the hill on Feb. 23, 2008, just 11 months off surgery.

Forsythe is on the Golden Spikes Award watch list.

Forsythe was also selected first-team pre-season All-SEC by SEBaseball.com. Coon garnered second-team honors in the outfield. SEBaseball.com also tabbed Forsythe and Coon as the third-best 1-2 offensive punch in the SEC.

Arkansas was picked to finish third in the SEC’s Western Division league coaches and fifth by Baseball America.

Baseball America also tabbed Forsythe as the best defensive third baseman in the Southeastern Conference.

Freshman Brett Eibner was the seventh-highest drafted player to come to school after being taken in the fourth round by the Houston Astros (No. 141 overall).

Arkansas boasts seven players on the 2008 roster who have previously been drafted. Six of those players are new to the Arkansas lineup.

Scouting the Gamecocks There is a reason that the South Carolina Gamecocks are a top 15 team in the country and a look at the numbers back the ranking up. As a team the Gamecocks are hitting .305 and their team earned run average is a solid 4.06. Along with solid hitting and pitching, the Gamecocks can field as well with a strong .978 fielding percentage.

Individually, Justin Smoak is the big bat with a season average of .405 and 56 RBI. He hasn’t slacked in SEC play either as he holds a .440 average coming into the weekend. Reese Havens is another hitter to worry about as he is at .376 with 13 home runs and a team high 59 runs scored.

South Carolina’s starting pitching may not be the best in the Southeastern Conference, but it is certainly serviceable with Will Atwood, Nick Godwin and Blake Cooper. Godwin owns the best earned run average at 2.48, but all three pitchers have five wins and an ERA below 4.50. Opposing hitters are also hitting Godwin for a .198 clip and as a staff, the Gamecocks have held opposing hitters to a .256 average and just 224 runs in more than 440 innings.

The All-Time Series

Despite South Carolina’s success in the rankings, there is something about playing against Arkansas that has its number. The Gamecocks are a rough 24-18 against the Razorbacks all time and last year Arkansas defeated South Carolina twice at the SEC Tournament (6-0, 3-2). The last time the two teams met in Fayetteville was during the 2004 season where Arkansas won two of three games.

A Look at the Razorbacks’ Rotation

Friday – Justin Wells, RHP (3-1, 5.52 ERA) – Junior Justin Wells is in his first year with the Razorbacks and the righty has shown considerable improvement since the fall. An Arkansas product, Wells hails from Bryant and went to Texarkana College for two seasons before transferring to UA. Since giving up five runs to LSU on March 22, Wells found his groove and gave up just five earned run over the next 18 innings. His last outing was Saturday against Alabama where he pitched seven outstanding innings before running into trouble in the eighth.

Saturday – Cliff Springston, LHP (5-2, 4.00 ERA) – Cliff Springston, a transfer from Baylor, gets the start for the Hogs on Sunday afternoon. Springston is 5-2 on the year with a 4.00 ERA and 55 strikeouts against just 22 walks. He has held opponents to a .284 batting average over 69.2 innings. The southpaw features a low-90s fastball, a quality change up and a curveball. He pitched a compete game in his last start against Mississippi, allowing four runs on 11 hits.

Sunday – TBA – Based on the past couple of weekends, the Razorbacks have left their Sunday starter TBA and plan to evaluate what happens on Friday and Saturday before naming Sunday’s pitcher. Likely candidates for the position include, but are not limited to Dallas Keuchel (3-2, 4.37 ERA), Mike Bolsinger (3-0, 3.86 ERA) and James Mahler (2-1, 3.86 ERA).

Van Horn Gets 800

Arkansas’ comeback against LSU on Saturday, March 22 was an amazing accomplishment and anyone in attendance could attest to that. What made the win even more special for the Razorbacks head man was that it was his 800th career victory as a head coach. Van Horn made the milestone win in his 21st season and for the effort was recently named to the College Baseball Foundation’s National All-Start Lineup for the week that was March 25.

Lets Play Extras

With its 10-inning game against Ole Miss over the weekend, Arkansas played in its eighth extra-inning game of the season. While none of the contests have exceeded 12 innings, the extra baseball is the equivalent to at least one more game on the Razorback schedule. The last time Arkansas played in that many extra-inning contests was 2003 and no team has exceeded that many games dating back to the 1980 season.

Injury Bug Bites Diamond Hogs

The Diamond Hogs have been bit by the injury bug throughout the spring. Arkansas has seen numerous position players ailing and have lost one promising freshman left-handed pitcher for the season.

All told, Arkansas players have missed more than 100 games this season to injuries ranging from hamstring pulls to broken hands.

Logan Forsythe missed several games to a hamstring injury and upon his return has hit the ball very well.

Andy Wilkins tweaked an oblique muscle in the Auburn series and is day-to-day.

Wayne Hrozek suffered the most serious injury in College Station when he was hit in the left hand by Ohio State reliever Alex Wimmers. The pitch broke his hand and will have him on the bench for 6-8 weeks. Hrozek has recently had his cast removed and his status for the rest of the season will be determined by how he can recover over the next week.

Ryan Cisterna was leveled on a play at the plate at Vanderbilt and came away with his arm in a sling. Cisterna took several days off from competition, but returned to the lineup one week later when he started the Saturday game with Auburn.

True freshman left-hander Drew Smyly was lost for the season with fractured left elbow. The Little Rock Central product will have screws inserted in the coming weeks and will be ready for 2009.

Sean Jones, who was penciled in to start in center field for the Razorbacks, was hit by a pitch in the left hand in early February and made his first return to the lineup against Vanderbilt and not a moment too soon.

Forsythe Named SEC Hitter of the Week

Forsythe went 7-11 on the weekend for a stunning .636 average with three home runs, five runs scored and eight RBI to lead the Hogs to a doubleheader sweep and series victory in Oxford, its first series win against the Rebels since 2002. His three home runs and double gave the Memphis, Tenn., native a 1.545 slugging percentage for the three games and three walks contributed to a .688 on-base percentage. All totaled, Forsythe was on base in 10 of 15 at bats over three games.

While each of Forsythe’s plate appearances was important, none were more clutch than his sixth-inning three-run home run in the Saturday nightcap which proved to be the game-winning hit. The shot over the left-center field wall gave Arkansas a 6-0 lead, one that Arkansas pitcher Cliff Springston would not surrender and clinched the series.

Larry Shank Recognized By College Baseball Foundation

Former Arkansas public address announcer Larry Shank was honored on Sunday afternoon at Baum Stadium and the public address booth now bears his name. The College Baseball Foundation on Monday afternoon also recognized Shank for his contribution to the Razorback program on their “National All-Star Lineup.” Arkansas head coach Dave Van Horn and senior Aaron Murphree have also been recognized in the lineup this season.

Forsythe Named to Golden Spikes Watch List

Arkansas junior third baseman Logan Forsythe was named to USA Baseball’s pre-season Golden Spikes Award Watch. The release of the watch list marks USA Baseball’s first step toward identifying the top player in college baseball.

The Golden Spikes Watch List features 75 of the nation’s top collegiate players that were nominated by baseball sports information directors across the country.

Wilkins Earns SEC Freshman of the Week Honors

It didn’t take freshman Andy Wilkins long to make a name for himself in the SEC. The Broken Arrow, Okla., product garnered SEC Freshman of the Week honors following the season-opening weekend.

Wilkins hit .455 in three starts (one at first base and two at DH) against Wright State with a home run and six RBI. He also delivered two game-winning hits with a three-run home run that propelled the Hogs to victory in the opener on Friday and a two-RBI single to give UA the win on Sunday.

Wilkins is currently hitting .371 on the season with six home runs and 23 RBI in 16 games. He is hitting .370 with runners in scoring position with four doubles and 15 runs scored. He is reaching base at a .474 clip with a .742 slugging percentage.

USA Razorbacks

Arkansas has had a key player on the USA National Team in each of the past two summers. Nick Schmidt was one of the American’s top starting pitchers with a 3-1 record and a 1.31 ERA in 2006 and Logan Forsythe was one of the top hitters last year with a .309 average in 28 starts.

Game-Winning Hits

Coming through with the game-winning base hit is not an easy thing to do. Here we track the Razorback players that come through in the clutch this season. In 2008, senior Aaron Murphree leads the way with six game-winning hits, freshmen Andy Wilkins picked up his third against Centenary and Brett Eibner joined him with three with the Saturday winner against Tennessee. Ben Tschepikow, Ryan Cisterna and Jeff Nutt have two. Tim Smalling Logan Forsythe, Chase Leavitt, Casey Coon and Andrew Darr have one each.

Date Opponent Player Result (Inning)

2/22 Wright St. Wilkins HR, 3 RBI (4th)

2/23 Wright St. Murphree HR, 2 RBI (6th)

2/24 Wright St. Wilkins 1B, 2 RBI (7th)

2/27 Kansas Eibner 1B, 2 RBI (6th)

2/29 vs. La. Tech *Murphree HR, 2 RBI (9th)

3/2 vs. Ohio State Murphree HR, 2 RBI (5th)

3/5 S. Dakota St. (1) Tschepikow 1B, 2 RBI (2nd)

3/5 S. Dakota St. (2) Murphree HR, 3 RBI (1st)

3/7 Siena Murphree HR, 2 RBI (1st)

3/9 Siena Murphree HR, 3 RBI (1st)

3/14 Georgia Eibner HR (5th)

3/19 #22 Nebraska Cisterna HR, 2 RBI (8th)

3/21 LSU Smalling HR (10th)

3/25 Centenary Wilkins HR, 2 RBI (1st)

4/5 Auburn Forsythe 1B, 1 RBI (8th)

4/11 #25 Florida Nutt HR, 1 RBI (8th)

4/16 Alcorn State Darr HR, 2 RBI (2nd)

4/18 #30 Tennessee Cisterna HR, 2 RBI (7th)

4/19 #30 Tennessee Eibner 1B, RBI (10th)

4/22 N. Colorado Leavitt 1B, RBI (4th)

4/23 N. Colorado Coon 1B 2 RBI (3rd)

4/26 #21 Mississippi Tschepikow 1B, RBI (10th)

4/26 #21 Mississippi Forsythe HR, 3 RBI (6th)

4/30 Missouri St. Coon HR, 2 RBI (4th)

* indicates walk-off

Hogs Lead Country in Actual Attendance – Again

The NCAA and Southeastern Conference recognize paid attendance as their method of ranking attendance, but Arkansas keeps both an actual attendance and paid attendance. After 29 games at Baum Stadium in 2007 (not including the NCAA Regional) the Hogs led the way once again. The Razorbacks sold 233,350 tickets for an average of 8,047 per game. UA is averaging 5,700 fans per game in actual attendance with a school record 165,298 fans passing through the gates this season.

In 2006, Arkansas set school records in both tickets sold and attendance over 29 games at Baum Stadium, including the NCAA Regional. The Razorbacks sold 206,352 tickets for a 7,116 average (the average is second all time). A record 164,608 fans passed through the gates in actual attendance for an average of 5,676.

In 2005, the Hogs also set a then-school record in actual attendance with 146,902 fans showing up at Baum Stadium. That averages out to 5,247 fans per game and is believed to have led the country.

Baum Stadium is underwent its third expansion since prior to the 2003 season with the addition of 20 luxury suites, over 1,500 chair back seats and an expanded Hog Pen in 2007. Baum Stadium will now features 34 luxury suites, 8,237 chair back seats and a capacity of 10,737 with additional standing room only available.

In an informal survey by the Baton Rouge (La.) Advocate, Arkansas led all SEC schools in actual attendance in 2005 and 2006. Below is a breakdown of both paid and actual attendance at Baum Stadium over the past four seasons.

Year Tickets Sold Actual Attendance

2007 266,270 (8,069) 198,218 (6,007)

2006 206,352 (7,116) 164,608 (5,676)

2005 200,378 (7,156) 146,902 (5,247)

2004 188,753 (4,840) 146,007 (3,743)

2003 100,372 (3,585) 60,510 (2,161)



Sports Category : Baseball